na foine ting
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
This is the post about Spaulding Gray's suicide.
In Cronenburg's "Crash," there's this moment where there's been a huge car wreck and Hunter's character's husband has just been killed, and Hunter and Spader's characters are just sitting there in the mangled cars, staring at each other through their respective shattered windshields. It's a long moment, a long stare, and the first moment of real contact in the movie, where characters have solid eye contact, where for the first time they reckon with each other.
Hunter's character, in that moment, rips aside her jacket and bares her breast to Spader. Not just bares it, but thrusts it at him. It's not invitation; it's statement.
Critically, a lot has been made of the relationship between technology and sexuality in "Crash," and most of the commentary seems to follow Cronenburg's "this is about man and machines" red herring with some relief.
But it is a red herring. "Crash" is about the violence of connection, about risk and vulnerability, about how we can't be sure of having truly known someone, or experienced something until we see the blood, the marks, the scars.
As the film's sexual ringleader says, it's not about "the reshaping of the human body by modern technology."
It's about the point of real impact, the resonance and bruising of a moment where two people have had genuine effect on one another and no one walks away untransformed.
We've demystified pain, for the most part.
One "gets over" things. You take pills for this depression or that disorder, you "feel better." You "function," which means going about your day in a routine way. Without coming apart, without falling down.
Without visible signs of distress, like screaming, crying, hollering, or other blood or contusions.
When you climb out of the hole people say "I'm so glad you feel better."
Relief, usually shared, at having to returned to life in the light, busy and productive, the functioning, "normal" state.
Jon's mother wanted to believe that in the final analysis, Jon had been happy. More to the point, that I had made him happy, that I had fucked his depressive dysfunctional brains out and that he really just had been that stoned that day and had died with a big smile on his face.
Bullshit, it was suicide and if anything in my usual bacchante way I probably woke Jon up from his hibernation and isolation just in time to think
fuck, this hurts
and then end it quick, before too much more than that registered.
Yeah, you're welcome.
Good humor, good comedy, good art is violent by nature. It impacts, it registers, and the best of it leaves a mark, the best of it scars the audience. It hits in such a way that the audience cannot walk away unchanged.
The best art comes, likewise, from a place of impact. It is an expression of the resonance of life in someone willing to not only fully experience, but relate it.
This is generosity.
This is -- if you can say the words just right or if the notes fall onto the staff the way you hear them or if you can make the paint or stone go just that way -- virtuousity.
Failure is most about isolation, where either we are sure we fail to communicate or feel that for all our pings and soundings, we have been largely unheard.
I can make you laugh, right here:
A few weeks after the funeral, Jon's parents invited me over to dinner.
Dinner involved extensive conversation about autopsies, police reports, Jon's mental state and the new dining table, which was imported from Japan and made of some kind of expensive maple.
I said the table was very nice several times in several ways, hoping it would cover my silence on the rest of it.
After dinner Jon's mother took me into their garage, which she'd remodeled into a sort of temple. The cars lived out in the driveway; as we walked in my first thought after
"Wow, it's a fake temple in the garage" was
"They have no garage: where did she put all Jon's crap?"
Jon's mom took me in there and sat down and took a deep breath and picked up the mallet.
Bong, went the gong. It was a small gong, so it wasn't a big, powerful or serene sort of sound. Less of a bong, in fact. More of a clunk.
"Was he happy?" she asked me, without opening her eyes.
I realized I'd been cornered and there was no escape and that in addition I was about to lean on the garage door opener button, which would be, in this scenario, nothing short of disastrous.
Bong, or rather, clunk went the gong again.
"Was he happy?" she said.
I contemplated a lot of things at that point including the truth, which obviously wasn't going to work here any more than pushing the button under my shoulder and running out into the driveway and daylight was.
She stopped with the gong and I realized she'd opened her eyes and was looking at me.
Down in the backyard, her bare feet had worn an errant oval through her garden. I had followed her around it, once, twice, again, hearing stories about Jon. My palm slid on the smooth spot worn on the tree branch where she'd just ducked under; her hand had trailed there a moment before.
"Sometimes," I said.
In "Crash," disfiguration is beauty, is sexuality. Rosanna Arquette's character admires but does not envy the clean lines of a Mercedes, leaned against it in her awkward mechanical leg braces.
She smiles at the salesman, who is simultaneously fascinated with, aroused and repulsed by her.
"Could you help me into it, please?" she asks him. "I'd like to see if I can fit into a car designed for a normal body."
She can, with assistance and difficulty.
But not without -- deliberately -- tearing a hole with her leg brace in the buttery perfection of the leather seat.
Looking life square in the eye and living to tell the tale is a mean trick. It has been done, often with the help of stable families, acclaim, wealth, drugs, alcohol, or (as in the case of your odd Bukowski or Ellison) sheer cussedness. Or a combination of these.
Some folks make it look easy, at least until we realize it hasn't been.
I'm telling you about Spaulding Gray here, and about how it wasn't just about depression.
And how like it or not we are accountable.
And how it shouldn't have been a surprise.
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